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Unpacking the Israel-Kenya deal to help wage war in Somalia

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Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on November 14 in Jerusalem (Photo: Israeli Government Press Office)

Kenya’s battle to fight al-Shabaab, the fundamentalist Islamist group in Somalia that has been tied to numerous suicide bombings, is set to be assisted by Israel. The BBC reports:

[The Kenyan prime minister’s office] said Kenya got the backing of Israel to “rid its territory of fundamentalist elements” during Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s visit to the country.

Last month, Kenya sent troops to neighbouring Somalia to defeat al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda.

It blames the militants for a spate of abductions on its side of the border.

In a statement, Mr Odinga’s office quotes Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying that “Kenya’s enemies are Israel’s enemies”.

There’s an important set of factors driving this deal, and it’s worth unpacking some of them to explain why Israel is assisting Kenya. 

First, Israel’s massive war industry will benefit from Kenyan requests to “help Kenya’s police force detect and destroy al-Shabab’s networks…[and] provide vehicles for border patrols and equipment for sea surveillance to curb piracy off the East African coast.” Israel has sold Kenya military equipment in the past, as ICAHD researcher and independent journalist Jimmy Johnson documents on his new website, but this deal will significantly expand that cooperation. Israeli arms companies will be profiting off a month-long war that has reportedly killed innocent civilians in Somalia.

Second, the deal is another opportunity for Israel to claim that its “enemies” are fundamentalist Islamists akin to al-Qaeda, as Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed. Netanyahu’s claim is wrong (Hamas has actually cracked down on Islamist fundamentalists in Gaza) but it’s a common trope pushed by the Israeli establishment and U.S. supporters of Israel in order to tie resistance to Israeli occupation to jihadist terrorism.

Third, the help is in line with broader Israeli attempts to “boost military sales in strife-torn Africa.”

There is a history of Israel arming unsavory dictatorships and regimes around the world, from apartheid South Africa to countries in Latin America. As Phyllis Bennis writes in a chapter to Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Israel acted as a “surrogate” for the U.S. during the Cold War in Latin America, Asia and Africa, assisting brutal dictatorships in those regions. Kenya is no dictatorship, but the alleged killing of civilians in Somalia and ongoing investigations into post-election ethnic violence that Kenyan leaders allegedly fomented make clear that Israel has not changed its attitude towards countries that commit human rights abuses–a logical attitude considering Israel’s own war crimes record.

Meanwhile, al Shabaab has slammed the Israel-Kenya deal, and the Associated Press is warning of the potential blow back to Israel Somali militants could inflict. As more innocent Somalis die as a result of Israeli-assisted Kenyan military action, the risk for more bloodshed on both sides increases.

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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18 Responses

  1. Exiled At Home on November 16, 2011, 2:07 pm

    Nice piece, Alex.

  2. pabelmont on November 16, 2011, 2:08 pm

    Israel cements ties with many countries by aid with water technology and military. The time for united action (via UNGA) is slipping away. The “1%” gradually includes the leaderships of so many countries and capitalism’s (and Israelism’s) hold grows stronger.

  3. DBG on November 16, 2011, 2:11 pm

    Kenya is no dictatorship, but the alleged killing of civilians in Somalia and ongoing investigations into post-election ethnic violence that Kenyan leaders allegedly fomented make clear that Israel has not changed its attitude towards countries that commit human rights abuses

    that is classic, look around the ME and African, you make it sound like non-Muslim countries are the only ones who can commit human rights violationss.

  4. biorabbi on November 16, 2011, 3:02 pm

    There are also a variety of Israeli health care initiatives in Kenya.

    • Mndwss on November 16, 2011, 3:39 pm

      This article was about Israeli-Kenya death care initiatives in Somalia…

      In your world, it is OK for Kenya with Israeli help to kill Somalians as long as there is Israeli health care initiatives in Kenya?

      What is the health care initiatives?

      Let me guess:

      Israel gives money to Odinga, that he can use on health care if he really really wants to? But Israel will not complain if the money ends up in Odingas personal retirement fund?

  5. Real Jew on November 16, 2011, 4:10 pm

    Netanyahu, always misses an opportunity for peace, never misses an opportunity to kill Muslims

  6. ToivoS on November 16, 2011, 4:19 pm

    Kenya is probably within its rights to confront the Somali para militias along its borders. They have certainly caused many problems inside Kenya. But explicitly entering into a anti-Islamic terrorist coalition with Israel is the height of stupidity. Any benefits will be greatly overshadowed by the highly likely blowback.

  7. Keith on November 16, 2011, 4:51 pm

    To look at what is unfolding in Somalia and see only Kenya and Israel is to miss a huge part of the situation. The empire is deeply involved in all of this as one should expect. Two quotes. The first provides historical perspective, the second the current reality.

    “…in the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.…” (Wesley Clark, Winning Modern Wars, p. 130).

    “Global Research first reported on 19 October [2] the lethal use of US drones in attacks on various locations across southern Somalia in a coordinated air campaign to assist the advance of Kenyan ground troops deep into Somali territory held by Islamic insurgents. We reported that US drones began attacking Somali targets days before the Kenyan army began its incursion, and have continued in a pattern that indicates American air power is being used to pave the way for ground forces as they advance towards the southern port city of Kismayu….Global Research also reported on 26 October [3] that French naval forces had joined the bombing campaign – again despite official French denials carried in Western media – and that the conclusion from these military developments was clear: Washington and Paris are now engaging in a secret new war in East Africa – a region where up to 12 million people are at risk of starvation from years of drought and Western-induced conflict….The bigger picture to this is, as John Pilger noted previously in Global Research, a “modern scramble for African resources” by Western powers, which have in recent years watched enviously the growing influence of China in the region. This neo-imperialist scramble for Africa is consistent with NATO’s conquest of Libya. The close collaboration between the US and France in the bombing of North Africa is now being rolled out in East Africa.”

    • Keith on November 17, 2011, 6:11 pm

      This is to supplement my comment above. First of all, I hope that everyone did notice that Somalia was one of the seven countries identified for regime change. Why Somalia? Today, an article in CounterPunch (excerpted and linked below) explains why. The key point is that this isn’t just about Israel and Kenya. The US empire has newly energized strategic interests in Africa, particularly Northern Africa. This being the case, any analysis must be cognizant of imperial geo-strategy.

      “The Horn of Africa is one of the most strategically critical regions in the world with the narrow passage where the Red Sea joins the Indian Ocean, the Bab el-Mandeb, being a potential choke point for much of the worlds commerce.

      Almost all of the trade between the European Union and China, Japan, India and the rest of Asia passes through the Bab el-Mandeb everyday. Up to 30% of the worlds oil, including all of the oil and natural gas from the Persian Gulf heading west passes through the Horn of Africa daily.

      Who controls the Horn of Africa controls a major chunk of the worlds economies and whether you and I understand it, the CIA, MI6 and all the western intelligence agencies know all to well just how critical the Horn of Africa is to their national interests.”

  8. Mayhem on November 16, 2011, 7:09 pm

    This article gives the ludicrous impression that we would all be better off if al Shabaab was allowed to go its own merry way.

    • ToivoS on November 16, 2011, 7:40 pm

      Yes it does. In fact the US has been interfering militarily in Somalia since 1990 and it is time for us to back off and just let the Somalis sort things out. What is completely sure that as long as the US keeps on shooting, there will not be peace. Maybe if we stopped stirring the pot, peace would come. I am sure that a Somali – Kenyan understanding could be reached if we just let them be. These points really go without saying.

      The point of the Kane’s piece is that Kenya entering into an explicit coalition with Israel means that the war has taken on a very dangerous turn. Israel is the worse ally imaginable — they do not want peace anywhere in the ME, war is their drug of choice. Giving them a foothold in Somalia will simply make matters worse.

      • Mayhem on November 16, 2011, 8:22 pm

        What nice benign ally should Kenya have to provide its military needs? Russia, Iran?

      • ToivoS on November 16, 2011, 9:01 pm

        Kenya does not need any ally. They have a problem on their border and they should deal with it. No one believes that the assorted para-militias, criminal bands, pirates, whatever are more powerful that the Kenyan army.

        Here is a good precedent. In the 1970s one of the most despicable regimes on the planet was the Idi Amin government that led Uganda. In 1978 Julius Nyere of neighboring Tanzania led his military to depose Amin. In this he was successful. He accomplished this without (any visible) from the Western imperial powers. He came close to bankrupting his country but he did rid a major menace on his borders. The whole world owed him thanks for deposing that tyrant. But the important point was that he did not use former colonial forces to achieve that goal.

        If Kenya has a problem on her borders she should deal with it without making deals with the devil. Without any question in my mind, dealing with Israel is like making deals with the devil — payback will be much more painful than any short term advantages.

      • justicewillprevail on November 16, 2011, 9:07 pm

        One that believes in, and practices, universal human rights for its population, and honours international laws and agreements.

    • dahoit on November 17, 2011, 12:05 pm

      Well we let Likud and Kadima go their merry way don’t we?Or is that a thought to far for tribalists?There was a story today in Antiwar that the US or France blew up a bunch of civilians but both sides are fingering the other.
      Ah,the Prime Directive;Would that it was an international policy,and then watch the world revert to peace,or at least simmer instead of boil.

      • Mayhem on November 17, 2011, 8:14 pm

        @dahoit, comparing Israeli political parties for which the Arab population can vote for or against in democratic elections to a terrorist organization that is affiliated to Al-Qaida is a nonsense.

  9. DICKERSON3870 on November 17, 2011, 12:01 am

    RE: “…Kenya got the backing of Israel to “rid its territory of
    fundamentalist elements” during Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s visit
    to the country.” ~ BBC News


    [Kenyan Prime Minister] Odinga has called for the arrest of homosexuals. In November 2010 he said “If found the homosexuals should be arrested and taken to relevant authorities”. He also stated that homosexuality is unnatural and it is mad for men to fall in love with each other while there are plenty of women available.[24]…

    SOURCE –

  10. on November 17, 2011, 9:44 pm

    This is almost too scary. It fits 100% . WOW.

    “Profile of the SOCIOPATH.

    1.Glibness and SUPERFICIAL Charm
    2.MANIPULATIVE and Conning
    They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly HOSTILE and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an INSTRUEMNT to be used. They may DOMINATE and HUMILIATE their victims.
    Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
    5. LACK OF REMORSE, Shame or GUILT
    A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. INSTEAD OF FREINDS, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end ALWAYS justifies the means and they let NOTHING stand in their way.
    6. Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ULTERIOR MOTIVE. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they ARE NOT genuine, NEITHER are their promises.
    7. Incapacity for Love
    8. Need for Stimulation
    Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal.
    UNABLE to empathize with the PAIN OF THEIR VICTIMS, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
    10. Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
    RAGE AND ABUSE, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are ALL-POWERFUL, ALL-KNOWING, ENTITLED TO to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, NO CONCERN for their impact on others.
    11. Irresponsibility/Unreliability
    NOT CONCERNED ABOUT about wrecking others’ lives and dreams.
    Oblivious or indifferent to the DEVASTATION they cause.
    Does not accept blame themselves, but BLAMES OTHERS, even for acts THEY obviously committed.
    12. Lack of Realistic Life Plan/PARASITIC Lifestyle
    Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.
    13. CRIMINAL or Entrepreneurial Versatility
    Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution.
    Changes life story readily. “

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